William L. Pierce, R.I.P.

Bill PierceOur Discovery Institute colleague, William L. Pierce, Phd., age 67, died early January 13 in Maryland after a protracted struggle with cancer.

Many will remember Bill as the founder in 1980 of the National Council for Adoption (NCFA), an organization he headed for 20 years. I met him first in in 1983, when I was at the White House, and persuaded him to join President Reagan’s Advisory Council on the Future of the Family. He served with distinction and helped influence the Reagan Administration’s substantial efforts to increase adoption and generally to promote tax and regulatory policies helpful to parents raising children.

It would be difficult even to begin to catalogue the accomplishments of Bill’s long career in social work and public advocacy. News media found him a ready and quotable resource on a number of issues. He lived what he believed and he was always available to explain it. Only a few days ago I caught an old news clip on national TV that showed then-Gov. Howard Dean in a debate on welfare with–would you believe it?–Bill Pierce! Politically Bill called himself a pro-life Democrat. As a practical matter, he would work with anyone who shared his policy objectives.

I believe that there are scores of thousands of lives that have been bettered, and thousands whose very survival resulted from Bill’s tireless adoption efforts alone.

Bill became a Senior Fellow of Discovery Institute five years ago and headed our office in Washington, D.C., representing us at numerous meetings. His last great–and unfulfilled–ambition was to help Ave Maria University in Naples, Florida to found a school of social work based on the dignity and worth of each human being.

Three years ago Bill advised me that he had been told he had less than a year to live. He pushed as hard as possible, and successfully, to expand his time on earth, but he also faced death with confidence and serenity. He was always feisty and strong-willed, but in the past decade or so I saw Bill’s rich personal Christian faith deepen and expand to embrace friends and foes alike. His delicious wit came to turn as often on himself as on his usual targets: duplicitous politicians, errant bureaucracy and selfish special interests.

Bill Pierce left us an example of integrity, intelligence and grit applied expertly to the issues of our times. His best legacy now would be for friends and colleagues to continue his carefully and wisely chosen work. With his beloved family, we mourn his loss and celebrate all that he did to improve this fallen world.

Bruce Chapman

Cofounder and Chairman of the Board of Discovery Institute
Bruce Chapman has had a long career in American politics and public policy at the city, state, national, and international levels. Elected to the Seattle City Council and as Washington State's Secretary of State, he also served in several leadership posts in the Reagan administration, including ambassador. In 1991, he founded the public policy think tank Discovery Institute, where he currently serves as Chairman of the Board and director of the Chapman Center on Citizen Leadership.